As we were flying from Nanjing to Guangzhou this afternoon amongst the piercing squeal of Meili and the constant stares of the Chinese people who sit across the aisle, I realized that all these exotic pictures of ancient places and our precious new daughter have given a one-sided view of the experience of foreign adoption – specifically adoption in China. Frankly speaking, it has been quite difficult at times and today was a prime example. Meili has never flown in a plane, only ridden in a car a couple times and has never heard english until meeting us. We are introduced to our new daughter and hours later are alone in a hotel room thousands of miles from all things familiar with a baby who is hardly comfortable looking at our unusually white and round faces. Out of shear necessity, she attaches to Tracy like a lifeline thrown from a passing boat and ignores all others. As for me, cautious stares are all I am able to receive from our new daughter – who has probably never spent any more than 2 minutes with a man before. I struggle to be patient and give her space to open on her own. She has grown up without any parents in an orphanage meant only for special needs children. We have no idea what she likes to eat but can just about guess it is nothing that we brought from home, although given the choice of our weird food and starving, she happily takes all we give. She might be cutting new teeth or her stomach most likely is not properly processing our western food – either way, she is crying without stopping on an airplane packed with people who do their best not to add to our stress by pretending they are not as frustrated as we are. When Meili gets upset, she turns her body into a stiff mass of sobbing against and no amount of coaxing can calm her. She is unable to communicate her pain and we are unable to sense the trouble in the few days experience we have had together. Her new parents are utterly exhausted from the constant meetings, appointments, plane trips and a bit malnourished – sleep is hard to come by in these foreign beds and unfamiliar environments. And the crying just doesn’t stop. Tracy sings every lullaby she knows but nothing helps because our new daughter is not familiar with these songs we all grew up on – we don’t even know a song to sing her to calm her stressed state – utterly helpless.
Tracy has been dealing with the most on this trip as Meili as latched onto her and will not allow me to do any more than look at her – and that is only when she is in a good mood. Which means Tracy is as good as traveling alone except for the bags I can carry for her – diaper changes, baby sitting for time alone or simply amusing Meili so Tracy can run to the bathroom all result in upsetting Meili. This is a different world we inhabit than those of our other children – it seems our past experience is tossed out the window and we have to start from scratch. Meili is an abandoned orphan in the arms of parents with a severe lack of Mandarin, and she (like all babies) has no patience for learning curves!
It’s 11:00pm at night right now and Meili is resting quietly on Tracy’s chest – peaceful at last. We cannot imagine the turmoil in her little heart as each new day takes her further away from all she knew. She did not ask to be born and she did not ask to be dumped on the ground in the middle of December with a gaping, 3rd degree clef lip and palette. She has had little to say about her life to date but tonight she has made a choice. She chose to cry long enough in the crib to have Tracy reach down and gently lie her on her chest. She has chosen to fall fast asleep in the arms of her new mom who is doing all she can to let her know that day by day, love will replace hurt and family is a blanket that will never let in the cold shiver of a Chinese winter.
For all you parents and folks considering foreign adoption, I felt you deserved to know it all – warts and everything. However, we have felt feelings that escape all explanation and do not regret for one minute the choices we have made. God set fourth a long time ago these days we are in and I am thankful for that. These challenging days will turn into weeks and then into months and very little will remain in Meili’s memories of our early days together. But we covet your prayers and good thoughts in the final days we have before returning home. There are 3 more plane rides ahead of us and one of them is 14+ hours before we can return to the United States. Again, we covet your prayers!
Before closing, below are a series of pictures taken today from the tombs of the Ming dynasty just outside the Nanjing city walls. These are those priceless times that balance out the challenges and it is still hard to believe we are in China sometimes…